University Housing Launches New Starship Robot Delivery Service

A student outside Dejope Residence Hall receives a delivery from a Starship Delivery robot. Photo by Joel Ninmann, University Housing.

Article by Sarah Barnes, University Housing. Photos by Joel Ninmann, University Housing.

New delivery service makes UW-Madison the largest college campus in the United States to offer autonomous delivery to students, faculty, and staff

A Starship Delivery robot stand ready to deliver food outside Dejope Residence Hall.
A Starship Delivery robot stand ready to deliver food outside Dejope Residence Hall.

University Housing Dining & Culinary Services is getting a hand with food delivery from some pretty innovative technology. University of Wisconsin-Madison’s over 66,000 students, staff, and faculty will have access to a fleet of 30 Starship Technologies robots that can autonomously deliver food directly to their location.

“Our students are juggling more than they ever have before and we are always looking for inventive ways to support their campus dining needs,” says Peter Testory, Director of University Housing Dining & Culinary Services. “This delivery service allows us to reach them in a whole new way with made-from-scratch meals we offer from our dining markets. This added convenience and flexibility of dining for students allows us to provide an affordable option for those on campus.”

Here’s how it works. Users open the Starship Deliveries app (iOS and Android), choose the items they would like from one of three locations (Carson’s Market, Four Lakes Market, or Liz’s Market), and drop a pin by selecting the location on the service map where they want their food to be delivered. The app allows users to watch the robot’s journey to them through an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, the user will receive an alert, and they can meet the robot and unlock it through the app. The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Robots can carry up to 20lb – the equivalent of about three shopping bags of groceries.

Each on-demand delivery costs just $1.99. In the coming weeks the ability to pay by Wiscard will be added to this service so students in the residence halls can use their food accounts and take advantage of resident pricing. In the meantime, customers can pay for orders with a credit/debit card.

The current delivery service area is generally north of University Avenue/Campus Drive, west of Park Street, and east of Walnut street. In the next coming weeks, service will be expanding to reach the rest of campus.

Starship Technologies operates commercially on a daily basis around the world. Its robots have traveled over 350,000 miles and completed over 150,000 autonomous deliveries. The robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and can take control at a moment’s notice.

“Our technology is designed to support people when they need it most,” says Ryan Tuohy, SVP of Business Development for Starship. “University of Wisconsin is our biggest US campus to date, which gives us an opportunity to help the students and faculty save time that would have been spent in line or waiting for their food. Now they can have more time to focus on the things that are important to them.”

In addition to university campuses, Starship also delivers groceries and packages in local neighborhoods and a range of items on corporate campuses around the globe. The company has also played a role in helping to bring legislation allowing delivery robots to operate on sidewalks across nine U.S. states, including Wisconsin and several countries.

About University Housing

The Division of University Housing operates twenty residence halls across the UW-Madison campus, providing a home to over 7,800 undergraduate students. In addition, they operate three apartment communities serving about 3,000 graduate students, students with families, postdoctoral researchers, academic staff, and faculty. University Housing also manages six dining locations around campus and provides housing throughout the summer for conference groups and youth camps. www.housing.wisc.edu. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies is revolutionizing deliveries by using autonomous delivery robots. The robots are designed to deliver goods locally in minutes. The delivery robots have traveled tens of thousands of miles, met millions of people and have been tested in over 100 cities around the world to date. They drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take over control at any time. Starship was founded by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, and former AirBnB executive Lex Bayer is CEO. https://www.starship.xyz/follow / starshipdeliveries.com